run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Monday, 9 May 2016

Travel: a baby-fun day trip to Margate

When a sunny weekend blows into town, I'm drawn towards England's coastline like baby vom to a white T-shirt. The only problem is, so is everyone else. 

Screw a day at a steamy beach followed by a 29-hour motorway crawl back home with a bored, hot baby - we've found the ideal easy-travel seaside day break for Londoners. 

Anyone who wants sea, sand, a sprinkling of nice shops (for that nap-time stroll), yum food, amazing rides for older ones and an easy journey - Margate is your place.

It's a 90-minute train ride from St Pancras (which has loads of free local parking on weekends). We boarded a prompt (and clean, which is great when your kid wants to roll around the table) 9am Southeastern Javelin train. (Excellent offer alert: an adult can take up to four kids off-peak for £1, and under 5s are free). Then we pulled into Margate by 10.30... Can you tell we were excited?
Dreamland - the retro fairground that dates back to 1908 - was our home for most of the day.

It's Insta-heaven (the colours! the retroness! the 17 vintage rides! But screw modern-day photo-obsessiveness - Dreamland is old-school fun. 
It's much smaller and more walkable than huge theme parks like Alton Towers - and if you're after those kind of wild thrills, this isn't for you. Price-wise, it's a lot cheaper too, at £14.95 for adult tickets booked online and £12.95 for kids, whilst under 3s are free.

Yet there's plenty for them to love. Grown-ups and big kids will want to ride the oldest-rollercoaster-in-the-UK, but I'm terrified of such things and stuck with tiny man who had a ball riding the tiny carousel, learning to drive in the super-cute vintage driving school, and popping in and outside of the tot-sized open-top buses and swing boats and ships. 

Elsewhere on-site, there's the Octopus's Garden (which costs extra)- an amazing Kidzania-type space full of big pretend shops, kitchens, a little beach, circus tent, and even a chalk-board-roomed art gallery (the Turbot Gallery - with some modern artwork that made more sense than the walls of the Turner down the road). There's a soft play area and ball pond, too. But we spent most of our time outside: riding the rides, gazing at the bright colours, and toddling the wide open spaces.
Better-driven than the 82 to Victoria...
Carousel cuddles
Never too young for car maintenance lessons
 Tiny man was also agog at the other indoor attractions - vintage arcade machines like flip-cup basketball and curling (bring a sling - they'll want to watch everything), and he giggled whilst watching his big cousin looping the circuit of the roller disco... Before falling asleep to the wild music in there, which just goes to show I don't need to be so quiet when hoovering...
Loud Roller Disco: BEST place to take a nap
Other things we loved about Dreamland were the staff: take the surly teens of Thorpe Land Towers etc and flip em upside down and you get the friendly, helpful vibe here. We ordered ice cream after cashing-up time and instead of disappointing a kid, they handed one out for free. 

Dreamland had only a handful of queues despite it being the hottest day of the year so far, and it was spacious to stroll, with lots of picnic spots. The beaches were rammed, but tiny man still loved playing in the sand. We walked to the Greedy Cow for lunch - (although Dreamland is so on-it there's even a no-refined-sugar-veggie, vegan eatery) - gorging on delish burgers, and no chips on the menu so you've enough space for ice cream at the yum Melt Gelato

Take a saunter to Turner Contemporary's beautiful (and free) gallery, with lots of space for tots to explore. We had just enough time for an afternoon-nap round of mini golf at possibly Britain's most scenic green... 
Taking the 6pm train back with a takeaway fish'n'chips on board (sorry, fellow passengers..), we realised that such a full Saturday felt like a whole weekend break... but we were home before 9. That much fun and in bed before the news? That's one AMAZING baby-friendly day out.

* Run Out of Womb was gifted tickets and entrance passes to Dreamland but rest assured we're seriously gobby and would never rave about something unless it was worthy.

If you're planning a trip, book your train tickets in advance at - it's much cheaper. As well as kids travelling for a quid, (which is available at station ticket offices and from conductors on trains), you can nab two-for-one offers to over 100 restaurants, theatres, and exhibitions, and discounts at the likes of London Zoo,  Dover Castle, and The Natural History Museum, by showing your train ticket.

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